TRINIDAD: – The opposition in Port-of-Spain has rejected an offer by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to talk about what strings will be attached to aid the oil-rich capital gives to Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations hit by Hurricane Tomas.
Last weekend, St Vincent, Barbados and St Lucia found themselves in the eye of Hurricane Tomas, now headed to Haiti.
However, Persad Bissessar has found support in Acting Prime Minister Austin “Jack” Warner, who has said there is nothing wrong with his boss’s proposition.
Persad Bissessar, speaking to reporters in Trinidad on Monday, Nov. 1, said that her country was willing to aid CARICOM nations hit by the storm but any aid given must redound to the benefit of Trinidadians.
“We will have to look at ways in which we would be able to assist. But you would recall my comments earlier this year, when I said there must be some way in which Trinidad and Tobago would also benefit. So if we are giving assistance with housing for example, and that is one of the areas that we (Prime Minister of St Vincent and myself) spoke about, … then we may be able to use Trinidad and Tobago builders and companies, so that whatever money or assistance is given, redounds back in some measure to the people of Trinidad and Tobago,” Persad Bissessar said.
However, Leader of the Opposition Dr. Keith Rowley has rejected Persad-Bissessar’s offer to join in the talks, describing it as a “backward, colonial policy”.
“[I] will have nothing to with such discussions or concept,” he said in a statement to the media.
Rowley said he would have nothing to do with “humanitarian relief from the people of T&T to CARICOM that is tied to conditionalities of self-interest as outlined by our Prime Minister.”
He further said that Persad-Bissessar had “insulted” CARICOM citizens last July, when she said Trinidad and Tobago not an automatic teller machine (ATM) for the region.
“We believe that in situations like these, we are unconditionally our brothers’ keeper, to the best of our ability,” Rowley said.
He said Persad-Bissessar People’s Partnership Government, in its attempts to be different and to change the country, “is recklessly attacking everything [the] PNM (People’s National Movement) created, supported or stood for”.
“In this quest to be so different, this action as advocated by the Prime Minister can only serve to bring us shame and cost us our valuable leadership role in Caricom, which is so vital to our own economic existence,” Rowley.
But Warner on Tuesday echoed Persad-Bissessar’s sentiments, saying, “with regard to the Caribbean or any of our neighbours, there has to be returns to the people of Trinidad and Tobago”.
“What is so wrong and or inappropriate with the Prime Minister statements that seek to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago benefits from any investments or assistance provided to our Caribbean nations,” Warner told reporters.
“There has to be returns to the people. The Prime Minister’s statement, therefore I am saying, is not insensitive. The statement is not breeding insularity. The statement is putting everyone on notice that you cannot be brothers and sisters only when they are in need and strangers when the going is good”.
Persad Bissessar told reporters on Monday that while Trinidad and Tobago is still awaiting official requests from the governments in Barbados, St Vincent and St Lucia, two containers would be sent to Castries and Kingstown.
(With reportage from Trinidad Express and CMC)